With the new season kicking off TOMORROW we thought we had better pull our socks up (note, remember to use the right colour tape) and get this review out there.
And what a season 2017/18 was. It was dominated by an enthralling two-horse title race, emerging forces, fading forces and some familiar nausey behavour from some (you know who you are…). So, bite your tongue, excuse the guaranteed errors and maybe just laugh if we call your team ‘underachievers’ or ‘D1 fodder’. It’s a joke.
So, lets start with the story of the Champions, Reading YMCA. Wow. An unbeaten league campaign with 24 wins out of 26 games. Just re-read that a moment. Yes, there were 3 league walkovers there but two were from the bottom two clubs, where wins probably would have been expected. But to acheive that level of consistency over a whole season – a season where both the League Cup AND the Norfolkian Senior Cup were also won over a 39-game season is simply incredible.
In fact, over 90-mins, YMCA didn’t lose a game all season as their only defeat was on penalties to the EBFL force Langley in the B&B cups, 19-20 on pens (who was that player that missed, hang him!!!).
There were some huge wins as well; a 7-0 demolition of Wokey Sumas, a title-ending put-down to Marlow with a 4-0 away hammering in January along with several 6-1 beatings, leaving a GF of 97 and a GD of +85.
These boys are now unbeaten in the TVPL since March 2016, a marvellous record for a grassroots side that don’t even train. When you throw in their Reserve team also won a League Cup and had a big run in all comps, these really are the boys to beat. Congratulations to Karl Curtis the Gaffa, but as well all know, it’s all those behind the scenes whose hardwork makes this all happen. Clap Clap.
So, we’ve heralded the Champs, lets take a look at the best of the rest…
A wonderful season from Woodcote Stoke Row, who really did take the title race to March, an outstanding effort given the YMCA steam train. It was only them (and a rogue Highmoor Ibis team in May) that took league points off the Champs, a 1-1 draw in October when things were ‘real’. Goals came from all round the front players as to score 87 but only have 1 player in the Top 10 goals shows the attacking ‘team’ threat’ these boys pose. Some big wins over Newbury, Berks County and Westwood showed they had the bottle to take on the big boys and to move from 4th to runners up in a season showed they are progressing…can’t wait for this term. Is a Cup win required?
Westwood had an excellent season coming 3rd after (finally) returning to ‘their level’. In fact, think about that for a minute. To finish above sides such as Marlow, Cookham, Newbury, established Premier teams is a brilliant effort from a team with an average age of 36. A GD of only 20 shows they battle, work hard, never demolish sides but know how to win. Another side that need a Cup run this term to show their players they can do well at Wood.
OK. Now, we need to make sure this lot don’t change their name again. Wright & Unity Sports. That’s it now. They have stewardship, good food and (from recent tweets), cash. So let’s wait for our preview, but it;s safe to say this was a strong season. An incredible start – 13 wins from their first 15 games saw them lead the table in January – saw a collapse after Xmas as no wins in 2 months saw them concede places to the big boys. Another side that need a cup run to back up the superb social media effort…
Newbury. God bless Newbury. Talk about a season of two halves. Mr Danny Langford came in to take the reigns after just an opening day win in their first 7 league games. A revival saw them fly up the table with some big wins, but when you’re up against YMCA, you know the league wrapped up with that form. Outstanding effort after October, but way too late. (Good time to say we feel for their ground issue…this is unofficial, from the person typing this…we’ve spoken to DL and he ‘knows’..).
Marlow & Cookham. What the jeez? Not the season either expected nor wanted. While the former had an incredible ride in the Berks & Bucks, reaching the Cup final but falling at the last, and Sinclair’s Army once again graced the Mad Stad in the League Cup Final (losing to those pesky YMCA crew), the league campaign was not ‘on’. We, and they, expect better things.
Mortimer, Wraysbury and Berks County. Middle Earth. We called it. It happened. Some highlights. Some horror shows. Move on.
Wokingham Emmbrook Reserves joined that cotchel of clubs, sitting between Middle Earth and the dreaded drop, but they joined a group that need to think differently this season in order not to become the Southampton (Hughes era) or Stoke (Pulis era) of the league. They play better football than those boys. But don’t win enough.
The bottom three faced challenges all season and it was clear from the off that Taplow, Woodley Royals & Highmoor Ibis United all faced a tough term. And they did. Some points were picked up when they had the combination of a) full sides with all players available and b) extra help from club players, but all three will be disappointed with the final standings. With all three clubs under-going surgery akin to Michael Jackson in his heyday, we doubt Woodley & Highmoor aka Reading City will be sitting here come May 2019 (and good luck to Taplow in their Hellenic adventure, a brave move, all the best).
So, lets return to our predictions this time last year. We called YMCA champs (it was like calling Man City in truth). We also called Woodcote as the ‘dark horses’ (we’ve just drunk half a pint of wine to congratulate ourselves. A nice Chablis, not any old tat. Feel a bit sick actually). We also called Cookham as our Top Three so annoyed at them for letting us down. Personally. We’ll hold this against you. We also said Marlow Top 5 (with Wraysbury so screw you too) so overall did ok.
But not as well as YOU. It’s the clubs, players and fans that make this league* so thank you for making the Premier League an enjoyable season.
*it’s normally here referees moan about ‘why not thank us too’…we see you as the waiter at a restaurant…we expect you to be good. And you normally are. But don’t leave a hair/obvious penalty claim in our burger/oppo pen area as that’s what we’ll remember.
Unofficial Award Time…
Team of the Season
We’ve done it. YMCA. Move on.
Given we expected YMCA to be brilliant, we’re going with Wright & Unity Sports. Like Woy Hodgson saving Palace, we did not see that coming. To go from 10th to real title contenders, whlist merging young talent, is a feat, so hats off. Special mention to Westwood here as well.
This could be several clubs. Marlow & Cookham were disappointing in the league but played well in the Cups; anyone with something to play for in the last game has done well. Taplow were a strange one, with excellent players romping things in D4, surely a shuffle around could have given their flagship team a helping hand? Also, the resource of Woodley, Wokingham Emmbrook and Highmoor means they shouldn’t be scrabbling about at the foot of our divisions.
But our ‘winners’ here are Berks County. So much effort and time has been put into building this excellent club, to finish 11th after a mid-table effort isn’t conducive to ‘achieving’. Players leaving, management changes and some bad injury luck led to a term that surely won’t be seen again…
Marlow teaching Westwood a 6-3 Premier lesson in August was a big one and the 89th minute equaliser for Westwood over Wright Unity in a 3-3 thriller in early Feb ranks high. We’re gonna go with the Sargent trio inspired Westwood 7-3 win over Wrasbury, just because the goals were meant to be decent and 10-goals is a decent return!
Sportsmen of the Year
Berks County picked up the award from the other clubs so well done chaps. Now get nastier and win more.
‘What You Up To’ of the Year
We’re going with Taplow AND Marlow…
Taplow have ballers all over their teams so we can’t understand why they struggle. Guess they suffer from the same issue all clubs do…getting their top players out consistently. Such a good set-up, we don’t get it…what you doing?
Marlow. Oh Marlow. You are YMCA’s ying. Their Barry to Paul. We need you back taking the title charge to May lads. forget the B&B dream now. Go title hunting…
The Aly-Us ‘Follow Me’ Award
(may be lost on some but an American House track that we’ve played 89 times since we remembered it for this posting).
Three Twitter accounts to follow this term in the Premier;
Reading City – so much going on, so many changes, it HAS to be good news for their TVPL campaign. Stay tuned…
Wright Choice Unity – from carribbean food to video training session footage. We can’t wait for these ‘jerks’ to spice up the league this term (those puns were terrible).
Woodcote – no real reason other than they say nice things about us.
We’ve got to the point of not really worrying whether people read all this any more. But we will be posting a TVPL Preview late tonight, once we’ve had some fish and chips. Oh. and wine. A lot of wine. We’re on holiday next week so it starts now.
Hit us on @thamesvalleyPL and get on all our clubs!